By Paula Neidorf
Hope takes on a new meaning after child loss and is especially profound after losing an only child.
I am a mother who lost her only child, a son, at 28.
None of the definitions of HOPE make sense to me – the mother of an only child with no grandchildren. I have no hope for a legacy, since my heart was ripped from my body, other than what I try to create while I am still here on earth.
And it is an insurmountable challenge to create a long-lasting legacy.
Definitions, like the one below, are empty, meaningless to me.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of hope is:
“desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment came in hopes of seeing you also : expectation of fulfillment or success no hope of a cure when they were young and full of hope b: someone or something on which hopes are centered our only hope for victory c: something desired or hoped for great hopes for the coming year 2 archaic : TRUST, RELIANCE.”
Words such as “fulfillment, success, victory, desired, trust” do not embody hope for me any longer.
I had hope that I would raise a wonderful, loving son, a kind, generous, good person. That hope came true.
I had hope that he would find his happiness, passion, dreams for the future. That hope was in progress.
I had hope that one day, I would live closer to him, or him closer to me, instead of 3000 miles away.
I had hope that he would remain healthy, and live a long life filled with adventures.
I had hope that he would live the life he dreamed and longed for.
I had hope that he would one day be a successful filmmaker who won many awards for his documentaries, his dream.
I had hope that one day he would marry or find a life long companion.
I had hope that one day I might become a grandmother.
I had hope that one day as I became older, he would look after me, as I had done for my mother.
I had hope that all I saved over the years, memorabilia, assets, would eventually become his.
I had hope that he would not mourn my loss after I passed on, and would be surrounded by loving friends who would comfort him.
I had hope that he would survive the kayaking accident that took his life.
But since my son died, HOPE changed its definition. I was never consulted.
Hope is replaced with hopeless or hopelessness, all sounding somewhat morbid and unexplainable to those who haven’t lost an “only child.”
Today, hope looks like this:
I hope that I can get out of bed every day.
I hope I can sleep the whole night through, without disturbing thoughts.
I hope I can find some PURPOSE in life to fill this huge, empty and cavernous hole that seems to get larger day by day.
I hope that I do not suffer any longer, the painful effects of grief.
I hope that loneliness and grief will not want to be my constant companion.
I hope I can go to the grocery store without having a crying breakdown in one of the aisles when I see my son’s favorite food.
I hope I can find some kind of satisfaction or pleasure in life.
I hope that my phone rings with someone who still wants to speak to me.
I hope that people who are still in my life will continue to be patient and non-judgmental of my grieving and constant longing for my child.
I hope that I never hear another platitude such as “things happen for a reason” or “he is in a better place.”
I hope that people realize that I will NEVER be the same person I was before my child died.
I hope that people understand I will never heal from this loss.
I hope that the world could be more empathetic and knowledgeable of the deep devastation and wide-reaching effects that the loss of a child brings, after being a parent.
Hope is no longer a desired wishful outcome, something wonderful, something positive.
Hope today is about “existence” and getting to the next hour or the next day.
My hopes are so different now. And though they might sound easy to attain, they are sometimes unreachable, at least for today .
Hope is not what we want sometimes. It is just a dream, a desire, and I have learned the hard way, I cannot direct or control hope.
It has a mind of its own.
Some days, MOST DAYS, I just wish I could remove the word HOPE from the dictionary and from all my conversations with others who have not lost a child, and replace that word with SURVIVAL.
How do I explain this to those who have not lost a child or an only child?